“ Don’t wait for the things you want to do, that day may never come”
My name is Hannah Cox and I am a keen traveller and business owner. The Hannah Cox pathway has had many twists and turns and begun with my childhood in Croydon, South London. While my Dad worked for a pharmaceutical company, my mum was a stay at home mum. I was one of three sisters and despite often getting into trouble, I was a smart child.
I also had an interest in travelling and seeing the world. However, the financial constraints of growing up in a poor family made this near impossible. In fact, my family could not afford dance lessons or any form of extra-curricular activity. I only experienced eating at a restaurant once prior to starting university. This was a gift for my 13th birthday and even here, my family could not afford to bring my sisters. As such, going on a plane to a foreign destination seemed like a fantasy.
These financial constraints were exaggerated when my parents split up in primary school, leading me to grow up with effectively a single mum. At the age of 13, I gained my first job and by 15 I was working 3 jobs. Despite this, I did extremely well in GCSEs, gaining As and A*s. This was not a result of dedicated revision, rather a mixture of natural ability and a well-suited education system.
Following this, my late teens were drastically impacted by my cancer diagnosis at the age of 17. In all honesty, it was increasingly hard to appreciate the gravity of the diagnosis at the time. The internet was severely different from how it is now and I had little appreciation and experience of death. Overall, it was just another challenge. Admittedly, not a challenge that could be ignored but simply a challenge that was part of growing up. This is a natural part of life and sometimes this just has to be accepted.
The cancer undoubtedly had an impact on my academic studies. Despite my previous educational achievements, it took me three colleges and three years to get an A-level, alongside some AS levels. From my previous achievements, it felt like I had fallen off the wagon. Instead, I began working as a scuba-diving instructor. While this was enjoyable, I eventually decided to give University a go. I ended up gaining a place through clearing on a tourism and management course at the University of Hull. While this matched my desire to travel, in honesty, the university was the only one that I could visit on my day off.
Following my graduation, I moved to London with a desire to gain employment in the music industry. I was really proud to receive my first internship with a music festival, even though it was unpaid. These financial constraints meant that I had to stay on a friend’s floor!
However, I saw an advert on Gumtree about the opportunity to live and work on an island. From there, everything was a bit crazy. I interviewed that week in a café attached to the train station and before I could process everything, I was offered the job. I scraped the money together to buy my ticket to Singapore and off I went to live in Malaysia for a year. Living on the east coast of Malaysia was a truly amazing experience. The living conditions were back to simplicity. There was no internet, hot water or air conditioning but there were hammocks and plenty to appreciate. My main role was to assist in scuba diving teaching, yet when there was no work, I spent a lot of time on the hammocks. I really enjoyed the experience and my only regret is that I did not take more photos and write more journals.
When I came back, I continued to pursue my interest in the music industry. In fact, I undertook the internship that I had agreed to the year before. My experiences in music were a bit mixed really. I undoubtedly met some great people and had some wonderful experiences but there were also some horrible times. I predominantly worked in a music marketing role. This involved tasks like managing performers for Universal, Sony and Warner. While I liked the work, ultimately the working environment drove me away from this career path.
I then moved to Manchester in 2011 and had the opportunity to organise my own music festival. I met my best friend, Andy, at a gig and he was incredibly helpful. Despite being effectively a competitor in the industry, he helped me with agencies, contacts and anything that I could think of. This opportunity coincided with my dad falling sick with cancer and ultimately passing relatively quickly. In fact, I attended my Dad’s funeral on the same day that I hosted the festival. My relationship with my Dad had been difficult after university, with contact somewhat limited. I only really reconnected with my Dad close to his death and this is something that I regret. I spent so much time and effort on the event, which I should have put into spending time with my Dad.
Honestly, at this time, I was not a nice person to be around and I ended up buying a one way ticket to Malaysia. I think people travel for one of two reasons. Either to discover something new or to run away from existing problems. This was certainly an example of the latter. Things became increasingly messy after this trip. I slipped into £20,000 of debt and, being from a poor background, had limited options for support. There were also issues with my Dad’s will so I never got my proper inheritance.
Following this, I had to get my life back in order. I found a place to live in Manchester and began working as a freelancer in event management. This allowed me to begin paying off my debts, facing my demons and overall feeling a lot better.
Arguably, another key turning point was another cancer scare. This led to one operation and six weeks recovery. Following this, I started my current business betternotstop. This has really evolved over the years and begun as a travelling blog that I started after my Dad died. At BetterNotstop, we work hard to ensure that companies have a good effect on other people and the planet. Primarily, this helps businesses to become B Corp certified, but also has initiatives like the better people network. I really enjoy the work that we do and truly feel that I am in a good place.
I want to say to others that if I can do it, then anyone can. I was at a really low point after my Dad’s death. I had varying health issues, including chronic back pain and I went through a lot. Certainly, I have had many failures in my life and could do a whole podcast on things that went wrong. However, I think that how we respond and develop from these setbacks are more important than the setbacks themselves.